Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The unbreakable Code

As you probably know, The DaVinci Code relies on a series of assertions about the Catholic church, Jesus, and various historical matters. Some of these are controversial ideas that some people find objectionable. Indonesia hasn't banned the movie like Pakistan, Egypt and some other countries, but the censors clearly struggled over what to do with the troublesome parts. If they left them in, they could offend people in a country where religiuos sensitivities are already running high. If they cut them out, they'd be left with the cinematic equivalent of Swiss cheese. So they hit on an ingenious solution.

They left out the subtitles.

Whole sections, notably the crucial scene where Ian McKellen explains the entire point of the movie to Audrey Tautou, are left without the Indonesian translation. I just sat there amazed as reams of dialog passed by unexplained. The audience knows something is going on that has to do with knights and pagans and the Last Supper, but unless they speak English they won't really have a clue.

Most of the audience was Indonesian, and the theatre charged about $5 a ticket, which is not chump change. I didn't sense any reaction - murmuring or foot-shuffling or whatever - to the lengthy absence of subtitles. Maybe everybody had already heard about it. Maybe it's happened in other movies. Maybe they just sighed and made a mental note to go buy the black-market DVD with the full translation. That's probably how most people will see the movie anyway, which makes the censorship all the more puzzling. Oh well. While this is kind of a historical adventure movie for most of the world, I guess for Indonesians it's more like a mystery.


ace said...

i'm impressed you noticed the lack of subs. I can't watch and read so i usually blank them out.

but subtitles on DVDs??? Did you ever actually read them stuff, ones retranslated back from Chinese? i suspect that some of them come from different movie altogether

kopisusu2 said...

So true about the DVD subtitles! We're watching season 2 of "Lost", and we like to leave the English-language ones on during the "Previously on Lost" intro just because they're so bizarre. For starters, they often get the name of the show wrong ("Previously Unlost ....").

I guess that leaves another possibility: masses of Indonesians will see a completely different DaVinci Code than the rest of the world! I wonder what the Holy Grail will turn out to be?

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